Friday, December 25, 2015

The real reason why old school gamers are not so hyped about modern games

Hey folks, I wasn't going to write today (just after Christmas), but while playing Dark Cloud (the PS4 version) I realized that all this time I have been analyzing and ranting about the old school vs new school topic in a very superficial way. First, I am going to shoot down all my own misconceptions and then I'm going to explain my new point of view on this subject, so let's get busy and start this up. Keep in mind that the phrases that are bold and underlined will serve their purpose on the final explanation.

Warning: This article came a little longer that I expected so I hope you like reading

Yes, it is incomplete, but it takes a while to get to the end.

Misconception #1: Modern games are smaller in scope.

This one has been going around my head for a while now. Some gamers say that modern videogames have become smaller in scope, but the advent of open world and sandbox games beg to differ. The truth is that if we take some exceptions out of the equation, games seem to be getting bigger, for example Metal Gear Solid V even in its incomplete state is still bigger than the previous installments. Now let's be clear about something. Modern games have become bigger and have more stuff to do, but bigger isn't always better, keep that in mind.

Once again glued to a game that has the same simplicity as some of the modern ones.

Misconception #2: Modern games are too simple.

In order to debunk this failed hypothesis, I had to look back at some of the games that are considered classics. Take Dark Cloud for example. The premise of that game is really really simple and although the game is really good, it is basically a dungeon crawler that tried to have a Legend of Zelda vibe (Sony even dared to call it "The Legend of Zelda Killer" at the time). It is quite safe to say that if it weren't for the re-building towns element and the interesting weapon system it had, the game would had passed under the radar at the time and to be frank, the first time I saw it I wasn't so moved by it, mostly because I was accustomed to other types of JRPG and was not into their simpler brethren called dungeon crawlers. What I mean by all this is that modern games are not necessarily simpler in nature when compared to old school classics, so that means that simplicity is not the problem, but the overdoing of simplistic ideas.

Sometimes it is just obvious, but oh well...Keep reading.

Misconception #3: Modern games always hold you by the hand.

This one is half true, but only on certain games and some limited aspects. Don't get me wrong, I am pretty much against games becoming casual oriented, but I have to admit that many technical fixes that have come to pass are really good. From been able to skip cutscenes, smarter save game schemes, been able to continue from more reasonable points when losing (avoiding having to repeat all the story cutscenes and build up) are nice fixes that eliminate some of the annoyances that we used to suffer in the past. The problem begins when developers try to fix what it's not broken.

Repetitive is one thing, but zombified in front of the screen is another.

Misconception #4: Modern games are mindless.

This one is one of those complaints that gets repeated over and over again over an old school vs new school argument, but if we take a look at the classic games we still enjoy and defend so much, we can see that this statement crumbles beneath its own weight. Many of the games we see as "heralds of a better era" can be pretty complex, but also many of them are quite mindless. In fact, some of them actually rely in the repetition of actions (like grinding) and design patterns that follow a loop, which are things that we mostly blame on the modern era, but were there from the very beginning. Now with that out of the way we can state that the level of "mindless gameplay" is not a defining factor and that the real issue is how they handle that mindlessness, because a game can be monotonous and fun, but only if doesn't make it a vain and pointless process.

What we old school gamers really think then?

That is a question that has a really simple answer and while it may look as if I am criticizing my own way of thinking as a gamer, believe me I am not, as this is perfectly o.k. and I even encourage it so bear with me. The real thing about us old schoolers vs modern gaming is just one thing...

We don't want to compromise our gaming experience

You may be asking yourself what I meant by "compromise" so I will explain. By "compromise our gaming experience" I meant having unwanted mandatory changes that feel like baggage in the mind of any old schooler who values a simple, but solid gaming session. For example:

  • We sometimes resent and classify a certain game element as unnecessary because it becomes a hassle and it feels like it's been force fed to us. 

  • On other occasions we see how the developers took a familiar sense of simplicity and exaggerated it exponentially to a point where we feel like we wasted money on the game. 

  • At some points we may even feel that all of our efforts in a game have no real value because we are only catering to a network structure that aims to keep us playing for years (mmorpgs don't count for this statement) making it all feel like a chore or like a mobile game on steroids. 

  • Last but not least, we sometimes feel like a game tried to be so big and open that each objective feels like a mile away with a path filled with pointless filler content. It's like having to go to the grocery store to get some supplies, but having to talk and do some favors to each of your neighbors before you finally get to the place you wanted to go on the first place. Some games do really good at this, but then companies start to imitate the trend and quality is lost. This serves to prove that not every game is meant to have an open world. 

For us, some modern elements that have become standards are just extra weight that we don't need. We feel that resources could be put to a better use and that we should go back to having games that are dualistic in nature (main game + extra stuff) rather than a merge of "one size fits all" features. Some modern games still do the right thing, but many don't, and we don't understand why they become hits in the gaming scene. It is quite complex to say this, but although we were raised with old school games, we feel like we are actually regressing to the days of Atari instead of the modern gaming perfection we expected. Maybe this is because most of us were raised in the 90's so we didn't lived those rudimentary gaming days in the 70's/early 80's so our school of thought is in the middle of gaming history (for the time being).

gaming industry today
This is the gaming industry as it stands today (minus a few exceptions)

In summary, we just don't want to compromise our gaming experience for the sake of others (mostly the game publishers out there). We don't think that the gaming scene has changed so much from the days of old, but we feel like it is out of balance and 100% profit oriented instead of been something that really caters to everyone (they use that phrase a lot these days, but we all know that most of the time it is not true).

Now that all the explanation has ended, tell me what you think. Is this is the real reason why old schoolers are skeptic about the future? Is it selfishness or only a set of high quality standards? Is our gaming taste just too expensive to make? Reading about your thoughts on this subject would be awesome.

Monday, December 7, 2015

5 JRPG to look for in 2016

Hello my friends! It's good to be back and now that I'm here blogging again let's have something for my favorite genre of all, which is Japanese RPG games. I've recently noticed how even some of my friends (who are also hardcore jrpg fans) are kind of lost about what the Japanese role playing game scene will offer to us in the near future, so I've decided to stop my almost non-stop marathon of Xenoblade Chronicles X for a while and make a little guide of whats heading our way in the form of confirmed west side releases.

Note: Although this guide is supposed to be only composed of games that will be released on 2016, I will start it by mentioning one that is coming this month.

Exist Archive

Platforms: PS4, PSVITA
Western release date: December 17, 2015

It still baffles me that not many rpg fans are aware about this game, especially considering that this is in fact the successor of the Valkyrie Profile series, sharing the same gameplay elements and featuring a similar plot involving life beyond death. So far the gameplay footage that the developers have released into the public shows that the game will be a side-scroller, but the fights within the game will be turn based and the story goes around the main character dying and instantly appearing on a strange alternate dimension. What is different between Valkyrie Profile and Exist Archive is that the side-scrolling exploration on this one has a lot more interaction and will probably have backtracking and puzzle elements similar to a "metroidvania" game, which is something that will add a lot to the overall game. This one is coming up soon, so prepare those wallets.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness

Platforms: PS3, PS4
Western release date: TBA 2016

This one began as a simple tease by Square Enix where they published an enigmatic website sometime ago, but finally after a long stream of trollings and false hopes, a new Star Ocean game was actually announced. If you look at the gameplay video, you can see that the game will take sort of an action rpg-ish style, but at the same time it keeps all of the original goodies that we are accustomed to when we talk about a Star Ocean game. The game has no specific release date for the west, but considering that the Japanese version of the game will be released on February, I'd say we will probably be playing Star Ocean by Summer.

Nier: Automata

Platforms: PS4
Western release date: TBA 2016

The first Nier game was released in 2010 and while it may have passed unnoticed for some, it gained quite a following and had a good reception between those who played it. Now Square Enix joins up with Platinum Games and they are going full force with it's sequel, side named "Automata". This new Nier game seems to be featuring the same action rpg mechanics and open world of the last one, but this time it looks like the game will be a lot more focused and solid. It is also worth noting that this time, the game will jump a little into the futuristic side where the main character has to deal with all sorts of robots and machines in an earth that has been invaded by a mysterious race of mechanical based life forms. No official release date has been announced, but we could try to guess and say this one could be on shelves by late Summer or early Autumn 2016 although we could be surprised with an earlier date as new announcements are made.

Bravely Second: End Layer

Platforms: 3DS
Western release date: Spring 2016

Called by some "the Final Fantasy of these modern times", Bravely Default is known to be the game that brought Square back to the JRPG scene and it's sequel will come to the west in 2016 to the delight of all jrpg fans in this part of the planet. The game promises to have the same goodies that the first one delivered, but a lot of new and awesome things to add up. I expect another epic story and a bigger world than the previous game so this is definitely the one Japanese rpg to have on a handheld console, mostly because real classic JRPG experiences are kind of scarce on that type of platform.

Persona 5

Platforms: PS3/PS4
Western release date: Summer 2016

This one needs no introduction to any JRPG fan and it will (hopefully) be released on Summer 2016. Last thing we knew was that the game had been delayed (again) and while we got a few nice trailers, most of us felt like this was the jrpg to have this Christmas. From what we have seen from the game since it was first announced, it will feature the same mood and atmosphere that the Persona games are famous for, but it will also have an added layer of exploration where you will have to actually run and even jump on things in order to get ahead in certain areas. This one seems pretty strong, so I'm sure that all this waiting game was actually worth it.

Wrapping things up

Well ppl, there you have 5 Japanese RPGs to keep you busy in 2016. It is important to state that this is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are many other games like these coming in 2016 and if I had kept going, the list would had been bigger than planet Mira on Xenoblade Chronicles X, so yeah that's quite big. If you want to see a full list of the JRPG games coming on 2016 you can check it HERE. I know I've been ranting a lot about the lack of this genre in the past, but I think this is it. 2016 is the year of the JRPG and the future looks awesome!